Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-pkhfk Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-12T11:20:23.704Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 August 2019

Vanderbilt University


This article tracks the historical processes that shaped human waste management practices in Majunga, Madagascar from the city's founding in the mid-eighteenth century to contemporary times. Moving beyond colonial urban histories of sanitation, this article charts the meanings, strategies, and work practices Majunga residents employed to deal with predicaments of waste in everyday life. I argue that the particular material configuration of the colonial sanitation infrastructure in Majunga required new forms of labor — especially maintenance work — which city dwellers evaluated through existing moral norms. With the construction of French colonial sanitation infrastructures and the new labor regimes they necessitated, waste management became a key vector through which notions of difference were negotiated over the early- to mid-twentieth century. Shifting emphasis away from colonial infrastructure as disparity and onto moments of reception can contribute fresh insights not only on the histories of African cities, but also to histories of technology in the Global South.

Cultural histories in the archives of colonial reform
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Acknowledgements: Research for this article was supported by a Fulbright-Hays Research Fellowship, the University of Michigan, and the Foreign Language Enhancement Program Fellowship. The author gratefully acknowledges Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Gabrielle Hecht, Pier Larson, Pedro Monaville, Moses Ochonu, Derek Peterson, Keith Breckenridge, and anonymous reviewers for The Journal of African History who provided invaluable comments on earlier versions of this article. All maps were produced by Daniel Tanner. My greatest debts are to David Epstein, Ben Houssen, Battouli Benti, and Ben-Taoaby and residents in Mahajanga who contributed their insightful perspectives. Author's email:


1 Majunga is the colonial name for the city, which was changed to Mahajanga in the independence era. Throughout this article, I employ ‘Majunga’ when referring to colonial era and ‘Mahajanga’ for post-independence times.

2 Some epidemiologists contended that cholera had never before struck in the island's history, but sources suggest the presence of a cholera epidemic in Majunga in the 1870s, see Christie, J., Cholera Epidemics in East Africa (London, 1876), 441–3Google Scholar.

3 J.-A. Dromigny, O. Rakoto-Alson, D. Rajaonatahina, R. Migliani, J. Ranjalahy, and P. Mauclère, 2002, ‘Emergence and rapid spread of tetracycline-resistant vibrio cholerae strains, Madagascar’, Emerging Infectious Disease, 8:3, 336–38.

4 Dromigny et al, ‘Emergence and rapid spread’, 2002. Some, however maintained that these efforts at ‘prevention’ inadvertently hastened the spread of cholera. The routine and extensive administration of doxycycline at the sanitation border, as well as in hospitals and clinics, had the unforeseen and grave consequence of triggering the spread of tetracycline-resistant strains of cholera. See also K. Ahmad, ‘Anger over handling of Madagascar's cholera epidemic’, The Lancet, 4 March 2000: 817.

5 C. Champetier de Ribes, L. Rakotonjanabelo, R. Migliani, P. Pfister, L. Rakotondramarina, J. Ranjalahy, H. Ratzimbazafimahefa Rahantalalo, 2000, ‘Bilan d'un an d'évolution de l'épidémie de choléra à Madagascar de mars 1999 à mars 2000’, Cahiers d'études et de recherches francophones/Santé, 10:4.

6 P. Duval, G. Champetier de Ribes, H. Ranjalahy, M. Quilici, J. Fournier, 1999, ‘Correspondence: Cholera in Madagascar’, The Lancet, 353: 9169, 2068; World Health Organization, 1998, ‘Cholera in the Comoros Islands’, Weekly Epidemiological Report, 73: 62 as quoted in Duval et al, 1999.

7 Fieldnotes, March 2013. Interview, P.T. 29 March 2013, Mahajanga, Madagascar. Owing to the sensitive and stigmatized nature of sanitation labor and practices, and per interviewee request, all interviews are anonymous. In some cases, individuals chose their pseudonyms.

8 More detail on the history and explanations for this ancestral taboo will be addressed later in this article. But it is useful to note that similar prohibition practices abounded in southeast Madagascar during the exact cholera epidemic, see H. L. Marqui, 2014 ‘Lutte Ccontre le cholera, ou contre la culture?’, Health, Culture and Society, suppl. Madagascar: Past, Present, and Future, 7:1, 61–65.

9 V. Andrianarisoa, ‘Hygiène: abandon de la defecation à l'air libre’, L'Express Madagascar, 29 Nov. 2011.

10 Ibid. ‘une grande première pour la tribu sakalava.’

11 Mary Douglas's work Purity and Danger (London, 1966) articulated the role of dirt in the production of taxonomies of value and social hierarchies in [location], and her work has given rise to a proliferation of waste-related studies. For recent scholarship on discard/waste studies in African contexts, see Fredericks', R. Garbage Citizenship: Vital Infrastructures of Labor in Dakar, Senegal (Durham, NC, 2018)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Chalfin, B., “‘Wastelandia”: infrastructure and the commonwealth of waste in urban Ghana’, Ethnos 82:4 (2014): 124Google Scholar.

12 Jackson, J., Political Oratory and Cartooning: An Ethnography of Democratic Process in Madagascar (West Sussex, 2013), 81, 124–6Google Scholar. On fihavanana and related concept of firaisan-kina, see Bloch, M., Placing the Dead: Tombs, Ancestral Villages and Kinship Organization in Madagascar (London, 1971), 6061Google Scholar; Graeber, D., Lost People: Magic and the Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar (Indianapolis, IN, 2007), 68–9Google Scholar; Kneitz, P. (ed), Fihavanana (Halle, 2014)Google Scholar.

13 Some exceptions include anthropologists Chalfin, B., ‘Public things, excremental politics and the infrastructure of bare life in Ghana's city of Tema’, American Ethnologist 41:1 (2014): 92109CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ndonko, F., Répresentations culturelles des excrements (Munster, 1993)Google Scholar; Van Der Geest, S., ‘The night-soil collector: bucket latrines in Ghana’, Postcolonial Studies 5:2 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and historian J. Grace. 2017. ‘Poop’, Somatosphere. (accessed July 17, 2018).

14 Epprecht, M., ‘The native village debate in Pietermartizburg, 1848–1925: revisiting the ‘sanitation syndrome’’, The Journal of African History, 58:2 (2017), 262CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Swanson, M., ‘The sanitation syndrome: bubonic plague and urban native policy in the Cape Colony, 1900–1909,’ The Journal of African History 18:3 (1977): 387410CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wright, G., The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago, 1987)Google Scholar; Çelik, Z., Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations: Algiers under French Rule (Berkeley, 1997)Google Scholar.

16 Chikowero, M., ‘Subalternating currents: electrification and power politics in Bulawayo’, Journal of Southern African Studies 33:2 (2007): 287–306Google Scholar; Lagae, J., Boonen, S., Liefooghe, M., ‘Fissures dans le “cordon sanitaire”: architecture hospitalière et segregation urbaine à Lubumbashi, 1920–1960’, Comptes Rendus (2013): 247–61Google Scholar; Njoh, A.J., ‘Colonization and sanitation in urban Africa: a logistics analysis of the availability of central sewerage systems as a function of colonialism’, Habitat International 38 (2013): 207213CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 On Sakalava social relations and wage labor during French colonial times, see Feeley-Harnik, G., ‘The Political economy of death: communication and change in Malagasy colonial history’, American Ethnologist 11:1 (1984), 1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 For exceptions, see Laporte, D., Histoire de la merde (Paris, [1978], 1993)Google Scholar; Corbin, A., La miasme et la joncquille (Paris, 1982)Google Scholar; Anderson, W., Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race and Hygiene in the Philippines (Durham, NC, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

19 P. Vérin, ‘Les Échelles: anciennes du commerce sur les côtes nord de Madagascar’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Université de Lille III, 1975), 312.

20 G. Rantoandro, ‘Une communauté mercantile cu nord-ouest, les Antalaotra’, Omaly sy Anio 17–20 (1983–84), 195–210; C. Radimilahy, ‘Mahilaka: an archaeological investigation of an early town in northwestern Madagascar’ (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Uppsala University, 1998), 199; Wright, H. et al. ‘The evolution of settlement systems in the Bay of Boeny and the Mahavavy River Valley, north-western MadagascarAzania: Archaeological Research in Africa 31:1 (1996): 3773CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Ballarin, M.-P., Les reliques royales à Madagascar: source de legitimation et enjeu de pouvoir (XVIII– XX siècles) (Paris, 2000), 4043Google Scholar; Guillain, C., Documents sur l'histoire, la géographie et le commerce de la partie occidentale de Madagascar (Paris, 1845), 26Google Scholar; Vérin, History of a Civilisation, 315.

22 Hooper, J., Feeding Globalization: Madagascar and the Provisioning Trade, 1600–1800 (Athens, OH, 2017), 72Google Scholar; Barendse, R., Arabian Seas, 1700–1763, vol. 3, (Leiden, 2009), 1237CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 Barendse, Arabian Seas, 1237–1239; Martin, J., Comores: quatre îls entre pirates et planteurs, Tome 1 and Tome 2 (Paris, 1983)Google Scholar.

24 K. Boyer-Rossell, ‘De Morima à Morondava. Contribution à l’étude des Makoa de l'Ouest de Madagascar au XIX siècle’, in Madagascar et l'Afrique, entre identité insulaire et appartenances historiques (eds.) D. Nativel and F. Rajaonah, 183–21

25 Dumaine, J.-P., ‘Idée de la côte occidentale de Madagascar depuis Ancouala au nord jusqu’à Moroundava en 1792’, Annales des Voyages, 11 (1810): 2830Google Scholar.

26 Guillain, Documents sur l'histoire, 209.

27 Osgood., J. Notes of Travel and Recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, Muscant, Aden, Mocha, and Other Eastern Ports (Salem, 1854), 8Google Scholar. Owen, W.F.W., Narrative of Voyages to Explore the Shores of Africa, Arabia and Madagascar, performed in H.M. Ships Leven and Barracouta under the Direction of Captain W. F. W. Owen (London, 1833), 100Google Scholar.

28 European travelers in the late nineteenth century described the abundant populations of goats, which served as sustenance for Muslim inhabitants; Osgood, Notes of Travel, 9; L. de Beylié, Itinéraire de Majunga à Tananarive, (Madagascar, 1895), 42. Rats were introduced to northwest Madagascar by Arab and Antalaotra traders from the 10th century, see Brouat, C. et al. , 2014, ‘Invasion genetics of a human commensal rodent: the black rate rattus in Madagascar’, Molecular Ecology 23(16): 4153–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 Douglas, Purity and Danger.

30 E. De Flacourt. Dictionnaire de la langue de Madagascar: d'après l'édition de 1658 et l'Histoire de la grande isle Madagascar de 1661. [revised and republished by Gabriel Ferrand] in Publications de l’École des Lettres d'Alger, Bulletin de Correspondence Africaine, 33 (Paris, 1905), 246, 158, 261, 135, 179, 183. For more on the significance of Malagasy language and vernacular texts in the western Indian Ocean, see Larson, P., ‘Enslaved Malagasy and ‘Le Travail de la Parole’ in the Pre-Revolutionary Mascarenes’, The Journal of African History, 48:3 (2007), 457–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

31 Freeman, J.J. (D. Johns), A Dictionary of the Malagasy Language in Two Parts (Antananarivo, 1835), 166Google Scholar.

32 See Rabearana, Rabezandrina, Ralaitafikia, English and Malagasy Vocabulary; With sentences in both languages illustrating the words used in vocabulary (London, 1863), 98, 126; Richardson, J. A New Malagasy-English Dictionary (Antananarivo, 1885), 361Google Scholar, 401.

33 Malzac, V., Dictionnaire Français-Malgache (Tananarive, 1893), 743Google Scholar. Feeley-Harnik, G., A Green Estate: Restoring Independence in Madagascar (Washington, DC, 1991), 40Google Scholar.

34 Personal communication with Pier Larson, 25 Aug. 2016.

35 Filth and filthy things/beings were similarly translated as “Malcoutte. Macota. Matoutou” in Challan's eighteenth-century dictionary, see Challan, Vocabulaire Malgache: distribué en deux parties, la premiere François et malgache, la seconde malgache et François, (Isle de France, 1773). Human excrement as “liquid gold” was documented in Japan since at least the seventeenth century, see Howell, D., ‘Fecal matters: prolegomenon to a history of shit in Japan’, in Miller, I.J. (ed) The Environmental Context of a Global Power, (Honolulu, 2013), 138Google Scholar; Kreitman, P., ‘Attacked by Excrement: The Political Ecology of Shit in Wartime and Postwar Tokyo’, Environmental History 23 (2018), 351CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 Richardson, A New Malagasy-English Dictionary, 300. This is certainly still true in recent times in Mahajanga, where schemes to recycle human waste for fertilizer have failed.

37Solafaka an-tay, potraka ampiringa, sady potraka no afabaraka’, Abinal, A. and Malzac, V., Dictionnaire Malgache-Français (Tananarive, 1888), 577Google Scholar.

38 Abinal and Malzac, Dictionnaire Malgache, 621.

39 Feeley-Harnik, A Green Estate, 125, 143–44; Sharp, L., ‘Royal difficulties: the anxieties of succession in an urbanized Sakalava kingdom’, in Middleton, K. (ed) Ancestors, Power and History in Madagascar (Leiden, 1999), 114Google Scholar.

40 Ruud, J., Taboo: A Study of Malagasy Customs and Beliefs (Oslo, 1960), 153Google Scholar; On slave descent, see Goedefroit, S., A l'Ouest de Madagascar: les Sakalava du Menabe (Paris, 1998), 56Google Scholar, 100.

41zavatra maloto, maloto indrindra, fady…’ Fieldnotes, 10 Dec. 2013.

42 This conceptualization is influenced by the discussion of dietary taboos as ‘historical records’ in Golden, C. and Comaroff, J., ‘The human health and conservation relevance of food taboos in northeastern Madagascar’, Ecology & Society 20:2 (2015), 502–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

43 Ibid. See also Meyer-Rochow, V.B., ‘Food taboos: their origins and purposesJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 5:18 (2009)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

44 Lambek, M., The Weight of the Past: Living with History in Mahajanga, Madagascar (New York, 2002), 26CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Feeley-Harnik, A Green Estate, 23–26; Lambek, The Weight of the Past, 100–103.

46 Lambek, M., ‘Taboo as cultural rractice among Malagasy speakers’, Man 27 (1992): 245–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar; R. Huntington, ‘Time and space in Madagascar: spatial indicators of social progress’, Symbols (1981): 2–12. For foundational texts on taboo in Madagascar, see Ruud, Taboo, 1960; Van Gennep, A., Tabou et Totémisme à Madagascar (Paris, 1904)Google Scholar.

47 See Feeley-Harnik, A Green Estate, 327–336; Lambek, M., The Ethical Condition (Chicago, 2015), 7285CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 A. Ramanantsoa, ‘Rapport final: Capitalization et recherche de solutions sur les latrines à Madagascar’, WaterAid Madagascar, Antananarivo, (2004) as quoted in Black, M. and Fawcett, B., The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis, (London, 2008) 82Google Scholar n 22.

49 Fauroux, E., Le Gros, B., Rasoamalavao, C., and L, L. David, ‘Le vocabulaire de la propreté dans les langues vernaculaires du sud-ouest de Madagascar: pour une meilleure approche des problèmes d'hygiène urbaine’, Cahiers des Sciences Humaines, 27: 3–4 (1991), 355–56Google Scholar

50 Author's fieldnotes, 10 Dec. 2013.

51 Ibid. Interview with P.H., Mahajanga, 22 June 2013.

52 Interview with J.R., Mahajanga, 22 Oct. 2013; Interview with F. P. Mahajanga, 7 Nov. 2013.

53 L. Duquenoy, ‘Rapport sur l'Ile Madagascar’, Revue Coloniale, Nov–Dec 1901; Centre d'Archives d'Outre Mer, Aix-en-Provence, France (hereafter CAOM), BIB/ECOL/4183.

54 Rabinow, P., French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment (Chicago, 1989), 228Google Scholar; Wright, G., The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago, 1991)Google Scholar.

55 Archives Nationales, République Démocratique de Madagascar, Antananarivo, Madagascar (hereafter ANRDM) DTP 28, letter from Admin. en Chef Moriceau to Gouvernor Gallieni, 1 May 1903.

56 ANRDM /IJ 2083-4, Arrondissement de Majunga, Rapport annuel travaux publics: commune de Majunga 1915.

57 ANRDM/DTP 28, Rapport mensuel sur les travaux executes dans la subdivision de Majunga pendant le mois d'Avril 1898; ANRDM/DTP 29, letter from Resident de France in Moheli, Reè Perrè to Governor General of Madagascar, 22 Aug. 1904; La Dépêche de Majunga, 27 April 1902 and 4 May 1902.

58 Feeley-Harnik, ‘The political economy of death’, 12–13.

59 ANRDM/DTP 28, Rapport mensuel sur les travaux executes dans la subdivision de Majunga pendant le mois d'Avril 1898, Adduction eau.

60 Tarr, J., ‘The separate vs. combined sewer problem: a case study in urban technology design choice’, The Journal of Urban History, 5:3 (1979), 309CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Gaillard, J., Paris, La Ville (1852–1870) (Lille-Paris, 1976)Google Scholar.

61 Barnes, D., The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs (Baltimore, 2006), 54–5Google Scholar; Jacquemet, G., ‘Urbanisme Parisien: la bataiole du tout-à-l’égout à la fin du XIXe siècle’, Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 26 (1979), 543Google Scholar.

62 Rajaonah, F., ‘Modèles européens pour une ville malgache: Antananarivo XIXe-XXe siècle’, in La Ville européene outre-mers: un modèle conquérant? in Coquery-Vidrovitch, C. and Goerg, O. (eds.) (Paris, 1996), 158161Google Scholar.

63 Roux, J.-C., Comptes rendu des travaux du Congrès colonial de marseille, 3–4 (1907), 167Google Scholar.

64 Kermorgant, A., Hygiène Coloniale (Paris, 1911) 3738Google Scholar.

65 Roux, ‘Comptes rendu des travaux du Congrès’, 167.

66 ANRDM /IJ 2083-4, Arrondissement de Majunga, Rapport Annuels Travaux Publics: Commune de Majunga, 1915, and ANRDM/VIIJ 391–061, letter 14-V from Chef du Service de la Voirie to the Administrateur-Maire de Majunga 29 Jan. 1917.

67 Ibid.

68 These problems were reported through the 1920s and 1930s, see ANRDM/F43, Procés-Verbaux de la séance de la Commission Municipale, Majunga, 15 Nov. 1927 and ANRDM/F44, Procés-Verbaux de la séance de la Commission Municipale, Majunga, 25 Mar. 1931.

69 ANRDM /IJ 2083-4, Arrondissement de Majunga, Rapport Annuels Travaux Publics: Commune de Majunga, 1915, and ANRDM/VIIJ 391–061, letter 14-V from Chef du Service de la Voirie to the Administrateur-Maire de Majunga 29 Jan. 1917.

70 ANRDM/F44, Proces-Verbaux Séance 26 March 1931.

71 ANRDM/VIII 12, ‘Plans d'amenagement et d'extension des villes à Madagascar,’ from Ministre des colonies Leon Perrier to President of the French Republic, 24 Dec. 1926.

72 Interview, B.A., Mahajanga, 25 Jan. 2014.

73 Ibid. ‘Hafahafa’ also has the sense of something ‘different, unseemingly, improper… peculiar’, depending on the context, Richardson, A New Malagasy-English Dictionary, 217.

74 Feeley-Harnik, G., ‘The Sakalava House’, Anthropos 75 (1980), 560Google Scholar.

75 Baré, J.-F., Pouvoir des vivants, langage des morts: idéologiques Sakalava (Paris, 1977)Google Scholar; J.-P. Domenichini, ‘La conception Malgache du découpage de l'espace’, Cahiers du CRA (1989), 7–45; J.-C. Hébert, ‘La Cosmographie Ancienne Malgache Suivie de l’Énumération des Points Cardinaux et l'Importance du Nord-Est’, Taloha (1965), 83–195.

76 Bloch, M., ‘The resurrection of the house amongst the Zafimaniry of Madagascar’, in Carsten, J. and Hugh-Jones, S. (eds) About the House: Lévi-Strauss and Beyond (Cambridge, 1995), 6983CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Freeman, L., ‘Separation, connection and the ambiguous nature of émigré houses in rural highland Madagascar’, Home Cultures 10:2 (2013), 93100CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

77 ANRDM VIIJ 391, Arrêté no. 30 fixant les conditions d'installation des cabinets d'aisances dans la Commune de Majunga, Signed 24 April 1913.

78 ANRDM/VIIJ 391, Arret no. 257, approved 10 Sept. 1926.

79 ANRDM/F44, Procès-verbaux, 23 Feb. 1934, “à bon marché qui seront louées par la Commune et constitueront l'embryon du future village indigène de Mahabibo construit avec toutes les conditions d'hygiène désireables à l'extension du réseau de distribution d'eau de la ville, à l'assainissement, par le comblément d'une partie des marais.”

80 ANRDM/F43, Procès-verbaux 26 Feb. 1927.

81 ANRDM/VIIJ 391, letter from Chief of Public Works to Chief of the Subdivision of Public Works in Majunga city 1 Dec 1932. Note that of the 21,172, the European population accounted for 2,936.

82 ANRDM/F44, Procès-verbaux 7 Nov. 1934.

83 ANRDM/F45, Procès-verbaux 11 May 1937.

84 Ibid.

85 Ibid.

86 Bissell, W. C., Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar (Bloomington, IN, 2011)Google Scholar; Henneberg, K. von, ‘Imperial uncertainties: architectural syncretism and improvisation in Fascist colonial Libya’, Journal of Contemporary History 31 (1996), 373395CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

87 ANRDM/F45, Procès-verbaux 10 Jan. 1939.

88 ANRDM/F43, Procès-verbaux-séance, 26 Feb. 1927.

89 Interviews with J.R., Mahajanga, 28 Oct. 2013; B.R., Mahajanga, 25 Jan. 2014; and P.T., Mahajanga, 9 Dec. 2013.

90 It is not clear whether all prisoners were required to carry out this work or only select prisoners.

91 Interview, Mahajanga, 25 Jan. 2014.

92 Interview with P.T., Mahajanga, 9 Dec. 2013.

93 Interview with P. K. Mahajanga, 9 Dec. 2013. Note folaka razana literally means ‘broken ancestors’, signaling a rupture in ancestral well-being.

94 Deschamps, H., Les Migrations intérieures passées et présentes à Madagascar (Paris, 1959), 147Google Scholar; Thompson, V. and Adloff, R., The Malagasy Republic: Madagascar Today (Stanford, CA, 1965), 270Google Scholar.

95 Saïd, M. M., ‘Contribution a l’étude des minorites étrangères a Madagascar: les Comoriens de Majunga 1947–1960’, Identity, Culture and Politics, 1:2 (2007), 111Google Scholar.

96 Said, ‘Contribution a l’étude…’, 2007; Radifison, N., ‘Conflits ethniques et leur résolution à Majunga de 1740 à aujourd'hui’, in Vérin, P. and Allibert, C. (eds.), Les Comoriens à Majunga: Histoire, migrations, émeutes, (Paris, 2007)Google Scholar.

97 Interview with H.D, Mahajanga, 26 Apr. 2013.

98 Interview with J.R. Mahajanga, 22 Oct. 2013.

99 In interviews, ‘visy’ was commonly used for latrine or toilet, from ‘W.C.’ (abbreviation for water closet). Most Malagasy interview partners preferred to use foreign (French, or in this case, British English) variants when discussing sensitive matters such as sex or toileting practices. Using Malagasy terms for these difficult subjects risks ‘breaking the ears’ (manimba sofina) because the matter is ‘too hard’ (mafy loatra) (fieldnotes Aug. 2013).

100 Interview with H.D., Mahajanga, 26 Apr. 2013.

101 For comparative contemporary studies of moral tensions around polluted wealth in Madagascar, see Walsh, A., ‘“Hot money” and daring consumption in a northern Malagasy sapphire-mining townAmerican Ethnologist 30 (2): 290305CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and beyond, see De Boeck, F., ‘Domesticating diamonds and dollars: identity, expenditure and sharing in southwestern Zaire (1984–1997), Development and Change 29:4 (1998): 777810CrossRefGoogle Scholar; High, M., ‘Polluted money, polluted wealth: emerging regimes of value in the Mongolian gold rush’, American Ethnologist 40:4 (2013): 676688CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Taussig, M., The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (Chapel Hill, NC, 1980)Google Scholar.

102 ANRDM/F 47, Arrêtes et Decisions Municipaux (1937–47), Arrête Municipal 111.16, 3 Apr. 1937, signed 26 Apr. 1937.

103 For more on historical conceptions of ‘creole’ and ‘créolité’ in the western Indian Ocean, see Larson, P., Ocean of Letters: Language and Creolization in an Indian Ocean Diaspora (Cambridge, 2009)Google Scholar; Vaughan, M., Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth Century Mauritius (Durham, NC, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

104 Annuaire general de Madagascar et dépendances (1907), 233.

105 Interview with ‘Tsiavono’, Mahajanga, 25 Jan. 2014.

106 The period under Tsiranana was, however, widely understood as a ‘neo-colonial’ moment which maintained the political and economic configurations of colonialism and the dominance of French interests was deeply contested by activists in the early 1970s.

107Taloha, manadio ny lalana, manadio rehetra a grace de Comorians…’ Interview with P.K., Mahajanga, 29 Oct. 2012. Interview with J.R., Mahajanga, 22 Oct. 2014.

108 ANDRM/IK 2214, Arrondissement de Majunga, Rapport Annuel Travaux Publics, 1925; Deschamps, Les migrations intérieures, 45.

109 Deschamps, Les migrations intérieures; Gueunier, N., Les chemins de l'Islam à Madagascar (Paris, 1994), 4546Google Scholar.

110 Mohamed, M., ‘Les ‘Sabena’ de la Grande Comore. Étude d'une migration’, in Vérin, P. and Allibert, C. (eds.), Les Comoriens à Majunga: histoire, migrations, émeutes (Paris, 2007), 48Google Scholar; N. Radifison ‘Conflits ethniques et leur résolution à Majunga de 1740 à aujourd'hui’, in P. Vérin and C. Allibert (eds.), Les Comoriens à Majunga, 151.

111 Radifison, ‘Conflits ethniques’, 151.

112 Their work practices were described in detail in a research report conducted in 2010 by the multinational development organization Institut Régional de Coopération Développement (IRCOD), as part of a larger sanitation initiative, which suggested that the sanitation workers were primarily male, in their thirties and forties, and from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds. See A. Larvido and P-H Dodan, 2011 ‘Assainissement des matières fécales de la ville de Mahajanga: caracterisation du secteur informel de la vidange des latrines dans la ville’, IRCOD, 27.

113 Interview with ‘Tsiavono’, Mahajanga, 15 Jan. 2014.

114 Van Der Geest, ‘The night-soil collector’, 203.

115 For discussions of these concepts in another context, see Cole, J., Sex and Salvation: Imagining the Future in Madagascar (Chicago, 2010), 5964CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 199.

116 This changed around 2010–15, when several non-governmental organizations enacted new programs to address the issue of sanitation in the city.